New health insights expected from New Zealand cherry research project

17 May 2022 – The Riddet Institute is exploring the nutritional and bioactive profiles and associated health benefits of six popular Otago-grown cherry varieties.

Dr Ali Rashidinejad, who leads the eight-month project with the Institute, is working with Cherri Health and Manufacturing (CH&M) to better understand the potential health benefits of Aotearoa New Zealand-grown cherries. Cherri Health and Manufacturing is one of the biggest cherry producers in the country.

High-Value Nutrition (HVN) Ko Ngā Kai Whai Painga National Science Challenge has awarded a development grant of $55,000 to CH&M and the Riddet Institute, with the project now underway. A further cash contribution has also been provided by CH&M to extend the research opportunity.

Dr Rashidinejad says due to their specific bioactive compounds (e.g., antioxidants), cherries could play a significant role in reducing inflammation, improving exercise-induced muscle soreness, regulating blood pressure, lessening arthritic symptoms, and improving sleep.

With the expertise of Michelle Cubitt from Smart Regulatory Solutions, the team will also assess the commercial opportunities and potential health claims for functional food products from these popular cherry varieties.

The new research builds on earlier work suggesting that other fruits grown in Aotearoa New Zealand tend to have enhanced bioactive benefits over and above those grown overseas due to high exposure to ultraviolet light under the Aotearoa New Zealand sun.

“We are excited by this excellent opportunity to collaborate with CH&M and HVN to work on this special fruit from Aotearoa NZ,” Dr Rashidinejad says. “Cherries are a great source of some of the vital nutrients and antioxidants required for maintaining good health.

“We think this research can lead to a new phase to extract, identify, isolate, and protect antioxidants from this NZ stone fruit for the production of various functional food products.”

Phil Alison, CEO for Cherri Global and its subsidiary companies, says the research will not only have a positive impact on CH&M, but also the wider summer fruit category and Aotearoa as a whole.

“We are excited by the results that this project is set to deliver and the prospects that will come out of validating cherry bio-actives including identification of high-value food opportunities from second-grade cherries and/or cherry waste,” he says.

High-Value Nutrition Challenge Director Joanne Todd says the New Zealand cherry industry is globally recognised as producing high-quality products.

“Increasing the knowledge of how New Zealand-grown varieties may have particular health-promoting attributes will increase the value of this sector further,” she says.

The HVN Challenge is a mission-led programme of innovative research into the health attributes of New Zealand-produced foods for our major export markets.

Through its contestable funding process, the Challenge has recently approved a large number of innovative projects that will be completed together with industry and research partners; a number of which are being undertaken by the Riddet Institute. High-Value Nutrition Ko Ngā Kai Whai Painga is one of the eleven National Science Challenges. The Challenge has $45 million of funding for 2019 – 2024.

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